Scottish Power Foundation receives six times as many applications as 2016

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The Scottish Power Foundation has seen a dramatic increase in applications after reaching out to communities across the UK

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21st September 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

One of Scotland’s newest private sector grant making trusts experienced a massive increase in applications this year.

The ScottishPower Foundation, which was set up in 2013 and gave out £1.8m last year, saw applications rise from 127 to 929 in July this year – a 623% increase.

Former MP Ann McKechin, who heads up the foundation, told TFN that a new proactive strategy to engage with organisations across the UK had paid off.

“We are a UK-wide charity, so we proactively went out in June and had different taster events; one in Dundee, one in Salford and the other between the North Wales border and the English border,” she said.

“We invited charities and organisations which appeared to be in the areas we have an interest in and also were of appropriate size, which means they’re not community groups but are large enough to have staff.”

The unusual approach for a private sector funder saw 40% of groups that attended the sessions go on to apply this year.

On top of this, the foundation also saw a surprising increase in applications from Community Interest Companies, many of which were bodies previously supported by the public sector but now seeking external funding.

She also believes the increase is linked to greater awareness of the foundation amongst the public.

“It’s great for us to be known very quickly,” she said. “We had 13,000 hits on the website in July and 8,000 organisations downloaded the application. My staff, which is a team of four, who have other jobs to do as well, fielded over 1,000 calls in that month.”

The Scottish Power Foundation is a relatively small funder with a single annual window for applications in July each year, with grants going out at the beginning of the next financial year. It is considering introducing a small grants round later in the year, but in the meantime, has the capacity to fund less than 30 projects a year.

Last year this included 27 masters students as well as 25 charities working in areas such as environment and energy saving, education and the relief of poverty and community development. The advancement of arts, heritage, culture or science is also part of what is a broad remit. This has enabled it to support organisations from Perth Autism to the National Museum of Scotland and the National Theatre of Scotland.

McKechin, who is a member of the Scottish Grant Makers Association, says that private funders may be small but there’s a clear need for them to highlight best practice and support charities to innovate, especially in the light of years of public funding cuts that have left local authorities only able to support core and statutory services.

“There’s a range of ways that charity foundations can make a difference,” she said. “We’re aware of the responsibility and pressure we’re under to step up to the plate and be as professional as we can be. This means we need to be really fully aware of the context that we operate in, and actually to be continually monitoring and assessing our own impact so that we can make the best decisions with a limited pool of money.”

The Scottish Power Foundation will inform successful applicants at the beginning of next year for funding beginning April 2018.